Book 8, Chapter 10

The Clouds Before War

The conscients up above broke their silence once Richard closed the door to his room.

“I never thought of such a legendary ability…”

“That burst potential… Kelly was beaten fair and square.”

“I don’t think I could withstand it myself.”

He continued pretending to be oblivious to these conversations, doing his own things. But this time, he started packing his bags. A letter from Alice had just arrived this morning, the thin piece of paper having been sent through a long-distance transmission circle at great cost. The contents were simple: Some nobles from the Sacred Alliance and Millennial Empire had formed an alliance and placed their troops at the borders of Azan, obviously with bad intentions. On the southwest, nobles from the Sacred Tree Empire including Duke Solam were preparing their forces as well.

Richard left the same way he came, looking no different from a young mage roaming the world. When he left, the young girl hid herself in an empty room and sobbed her heart out.

……

Within the palace, Empress Gelan stood in front of a window and looked down at the Emerald Dreamlake before her. The Hidden Sword was standing by her side, looking down at the calm surface of the lake as well. However, their real attention went past the numerous obstacles and settled on Richard who was walking towards a portal.

When Richard disappeared into the array, the Sword Saint smiled, “He’s finally left. The kid is really good with money, he managed to make back almost everything he spent.”

The Empress sighed, “The items in the auction were why he’d come here in the first place, in addition to battling a few of our legends to warn them not to have any ideas on his land.”

“Mm. A saint runemaster who’s good in combat? Heh, even I wouldn’t want to provoke someone like that. But those 500 units of divinity crystals… they were strange, almost like they were aimed at him. I think some annoying people might be behind it.”

“Are they making trouble again?” Gelan’s voice was suffused with murderous intent.

“When don’t they?” Hidden Sword answered calmly.

“… Let’s observe for a little while. The time will come soon.”

A look of surprise flashed past Hidden Sword’s face, but he switched topics, “I went to take a look in the past few days. The kid is crafting an impressive rune; he just finished the framework, but the aura is already leaving me uneasy.”

“A rune that can make you uneasy? With just a frame?” Empress Gelan was shocked.

“Yes, just the frame.”

“Hmm… Could it be … grade 6? No, no way. There hasn’t been a single one made in Norland yet.”

“Regardless, this fellow is outstanding. He’s learning from battle to battle, gaining experience in addition to his fame. I can already feel his laws strengthening.”

“He could become a troublemaker as well,” the Empress commented wryly. She then turned and asked, “When are you planning to go to Klandor?”

“Maybe in a few days. It’s felt like the longest time since I saw Greyhawk; he still looked young the last time I saw him, but now it looks like his daughter’s growing up.”

Gelan drew a circle in front of her, forming an orb in mid-air that showed another part of the world. The ball of light depicted an average-sized house with simple and plain decorations, the stone bed in the middle occupied by a young girl who was sleeping soundly. Mountainsea was imposing even in her slumber, her limbs radiating sheer power in their stretched state. It looked like she was sleeping in the plains instead of at home, the very sky her blanket.

Her long, black hair was spread out, still made up in dozens of braids. The only difference was that the end of her braids didn’t contain priceless diamonds anymore, but colourful stone shells and metal pieces. These accessories weren’t even worth a gold coin in total; even the servants who cleaned the imperial palace wouldn’t take a second glance at them. Empress Gelan grunted in anger.

However, the Sword Saint saw something completely different instead, pointing at the stone bed the girl was lying on, “That’s a full slab of iron ore, but it’s still starting to crack. Her Highness is getting heavier. And those accessories… Haha, Your Majesty, don’t you feel like she’s become more considerate?”

“It looks like the runt’s bloodline is finally going to awaken,” the Empress said softly, her expression growing gentle as well, “Come back soon, I have this feeling that something big might happen soon.”

The Sword Saint turned solemn and nodded.

The two epic beings stared at Mountainsea again through the screen of light, but the barbarian girl was still deep asleep and unaware that she was being watched.

……

When Richard walked back out of the portal, the atmosphere in Blackrose was unbelievably oppressive, with troops of fully-armoured warriors marching past from time to time. The three permanent army bases originally outside the castle weren’t able to accommodate all of the soldiers anymore, and now needed many tents pitched around them.

One could see many large caravans on the horizon, merchant groups bringing warriors, ore, food, and other war supplies. There were more than a hundred guards with each group, most of them Archerons with a few mercenaries mixed in. Ever since Richard had withdrawn from the Sacred Alliance, he had started recruiting all of the Archeron warriors in Azan. As for mercenaries, he offered them extremely lucrative conditions and convinced them to join his side for battle even under threat from all three human empires.

As resources and warriors continued to gather in Azan, Richard had almost a hundred thousand soldiers in his territory of which a full half were Archerons. This sudden growth left Alice extremely busy, and even Goliath’s experienced officers eventually had to step in. If not, the army would quickly have descended into chaos.

Once Richard was back, he immediately summoned Alice and his followers to the command centre. The mages and generals then marked out all activity in the surrounding territories, a mage in his twenties starting to explain, “The greatest pressure is from the Sacred Alliance. They have gathered a total of eleven families, including two of the thirteen, with the Turings as their leaders. Initial reports are that there are more than 100,000 soldiers gathered here and rising. The number of legends and rune knights is unknown, but from the base setup I think it’s fifty rune knights.

“The Millennial Empire are a little smaller in number, seven or eight families. Still, that makes for 80,000 soldiers with more rune knights in their midst compared to the Alliance. The Sacred Tree Empire is the least of all, a small retinue led by Duke Solam.”

It looked like the Sacred Tree Empire was the only one whose royal family didn’t instigate the rest to go to war. Both they and the Millennial Empire wanted to gain Richard’s loyalty in the future, but defeating him was one effective method of doing so. They could still offer him a position as duke and royal runemaster after regardless, but his personal force would be whittled away to the point where he had to align himself completely with their interests.

“How long till they finish gathering?” Richard asked.

“A month, tops,” Alice replied.

On the map, there were three arcs encircling Azan which were constantly being reinforced. Richard frowned and looked at the situation silently; this wasn’t an army of Faelor he was up against, but elite soldiers from the lords of Norland. Even if these weren’t the best warriors those lords had, they still far surpassed Faelorian troops. The Archerons only had a slight advantage in equipment, not level, while the opponents had an absolute advantage in numbers.

A moment later, Richard marked the side of the Sacred Tree Empire and asked Alice, “You think you could defend this castle for a while if you only had a quarter the number of your old friends?”

Were they going to give up a part of the battle? Everyone fell into thought, but Alice answered without hesitation, “Give me fifty rune knights to keep us safe from sky saints. If I’m controlling everything, I can hold this castle for two months.”

He smiled, “No, I don’t need that long. Just hold it for two weeks.”

Alice frowned, “And what will you do by then?”

A small fireball landed on where the Sacred Alliance had gathered on the map, Richard’s voice filled with murder, “I’ll take care of my old friends before finishing off the Millennial Empire. Once I’m done with those two, I’ll turn around and tear into Solam’s back lines.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: WQ

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA